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Huawei chip partnership looks toward Ethernet hitting 400 gigabits

Stephen Lawson | March 14, 2014
A demonstration this week by networking vendor Huawei Technologies and chip maker Xilinx signaled the optical industry's eagerness for 400-Gigabit Ethernet, a standard that is still at least two years away.

Among the questions the task group will grapple with is what kinds of smaller connections to add together to reach 400Gbps. The Huawei-Xilinx prototype uses 16 channels of 25Gbps, but the companies say they could use other configurations depending on how the standards process goes.

Though Huawei may be alone in showing an actual 400GbE prototype at this stage, other vendors also have their eyes on the next jump in speed. Juniper Networks is developing an ASIC (application-specific integrated circuit) with 400Gbps capability that should be ready for 400GbE once the standard's ready, according to Stephen Turner, director of product partnerships at Juniper's routing group. Alcatel-Lucent has not announced any products for 400GbE but has other 400Gbps gear that's commercially deployed by France Telecom-Orange. Cisco Systems likewise hasn't announced any 400GbE technology, but last year the company introduced its nPower network processor with support for 400Gbps throughput.

Getting out ahead of standards and forming industry relationships such as the Xilinx partnership are key to Huawei's role as a major global vendor of telecommunications gear, Adams said. While the company in Shenzhen, China, once simply followed standards, it now participates in standards bodies and hopes to influence them, he said.

Huawei is the third-largest maker of routers for carriers' core networks, behind Cisco and Juniper, Dell'Oro Group's Tamboli said.

About one-third of Huawei's total revenue comes from its home market of China, with another third coming from Europe, according to Adams. The company is also a major player in other parts of Asia and in Africa.

In the U.S., Huawei has faced stiff opposition from federal regulators and lawmakers who have said it has links to the Chinese government that raise the danger of "back-door" product vulnerabilities. Huawei has denied having close government ties or shipping compromised products. The company is at an early stage of market development in the U.S. and is looking at developing relationships that would allow it to compete, Adams said.

 

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